Have you fallen prey to a narcissistic lover?
Jane (not her real name) was reasonably happily married and enjoying a successful career. Unfortunately, all the working-late nights ended up with her having an affair with the big boss (also married). He was exciting and intoxicating… he was her ‘soul mate’.
She couldn’t believe that she had found ‘the one’. He was perfect for her.
Or so she thought.
After the glow of the affair dimmed, she soon found herself on the outer, and then unceremoniously dumped. The decline happened so quickly, so unexpectedly. Jane was in shock, and the loss to her self-esteem is still evident more than a year later.
Her marriage didn’t survive.
Only now does she understand that she never stood a chance with the big boss. Because he is a textbook narcissist. A predator who, once he set his eyes on Jane, transformed himself into her soul mate so he became irresistible to her (narcissists are exceptionally good at doing this), but his only intent was to use her, not marry her.
Here’s a guide to how narcissists conduct an affair to help you determine if you are a victim:
- The affair generally will follow three predictable stages: idealize, devalue and discard. This process can take place over many years. If it is important to them to have a semblance of respectability, they may establish a long term relationship with you, however if all they are after is fun, it will be over within a couple of hours. If it’s about the stimulation and diversion away from daily responsibilities (i.e. spouse and children at home), they may stay with you as long as you excite them.
- Narcissists are highly manipulative. They will interact closely with you to see what makes you tick before they start the affair. Once confident they know you well, they will typically lure you with promises to offer whatever has been missing from your life. For example, if you’ve suffered a death in the family, they appear to be a sympathetic friend. Or if you don’t feel you are ‘heard’ at home, they will be amazing listeners when you are talking.
- During the manipulation stage they pour on the charm to secure an emotional attachment and gain trust. They are generous and kind to a fault. You feel like you have never been treated so well by anyone before. They will make your current partner seem like they have no appreciation for you, and no understanding of what you need from a relationship.
- Their initial assessment of you and your life has put them in a good place to depict themselves as not only compatible to you, but also as your soul mate. They present as your mirror image – everything about you as a couple works, you are so alike. They share exactly the same interests and sensibilities, offering a relationship that is special, unique and forever.
- You will see warning signs, however, because narcissists are so manipulative you will doubt your thoughts about this person. Could they possibly be so good? So perfect for me? BUT, early in the romantic stage of the relationship you will be so blinded by the euphoria of falling in love with someone so perfect that you won’t notice these red flags. Or, if you do, you’ll cast these warning signs aside. Because this person could be ‘the one’.
- However, narcissists bore easily. The honeymoon stage will last only until they intuitively sense they have won you over completely. That’s their cue to move on. They’ve won this game and there’s no challenge left for them. You now bore them senseless. And they will dump you – usually with little care for your feelings, or acknowledgement of the promises they made. You will now, finally, see the real person you have been involved with, as he or she no longer has any incentive to continue to pretend to be so perfect.
- The indicator they have lost interest is the process of devaluation, where you go from their ‘everything’ to ‘nothing’. This is a process you won’t immediately be aware of, because they are skilled at giving you just the right dose of validation and attention. But slowly they will begin to treat you worse and worse, as you have become much less exciting in their eyes and you become conditioned to think less highly of yourself and accept their bad behaviour. You fall into denial desperately trying to hold onto the fantasy of the ideal romance they have cultivated. You rationalise their bad behaviour. But your self-esteem begins to plummet.
- At some point, they will lead you to blame yourself for what went wrong in the relationship. They will imply you are not good enough for them. Keep in mind that narcissists will twist the truth to fit their momentary goals and to play mind games. They commonly project their own flaws upon others. Once they get bored with you they will maintain control over you through deception, isolation, abuse, gas-lighting and undermining your self-confidence.
- Devaluation phase has now set in, and you do whatever you can to regain ‘soul mate’ status. You try to recapture the excitement and sweetness of the idealization phase. His or her power is addictive, whatever it was they needed from you, they need more of it now to maintain the relationship. You will be asked for more and more. To maintain the control over you they increase domination and manipulation. Isolating you further from those who care about you, whilst at the same time undermining your confidence and boundaries more. You question yourself more and no longer trust your own judgement.
- Narcissists construct an “us” versus “them” worldview. After the initial idealisation phase, nothing you did was ever good enough for them. They depict their relationship with you as privileged and better than the ordinary love bonds normal people form. This of course is fiction. In fact, the opposite holds true. The relationship is in fact all one-sided and distorted. A consummate narcissist loves no one but them self and cares about nothing but their own selfish desires.
- If and when they do something nice it is always instrumental: a means to an end. Eventually, ignoring all your own needs and fulfilling only theirs has transformed you to a mere shadow of the confident human being you once were.
- The process is excruciatingly painful, for you that is. For the narcissist not so much. He or she would have done it before and will do it again. The pain of ending the relationship is easy for them to endure, because they haven’t truly given everything to it and therefore they don’t stand to lose too much.
- Besides, they have probably already secured their next victim…
So why do narcissists invest so much effort in an affair?
It seems like a lot of effort to go to. And it is for most of us. Which is why it is this behaviour that confuses so many victims, “but they did this and this and this, they bought this for me, we planned our future, we went out all of the time, we had so much fun, we even talked about what we’d name our children”.
Why do they go to so much trouble?
The answer is simply ‘Sport’. It is sport to them. They enjoy both the chase and the kill; the seduction and the betrayal.
Liz Paul is a relationship therapist with experience, empathy & a genuine passion to help people in need. To speak with Liz call: 0422 306 679